Journey Through the Universe — a partnership among NSF’s NOIRLab/Gemini, the Hawaiʻi Department of Education Hilo-Waiākea Complex Area, and the TMT International Observatory — returns to its in-person format to share with Hawai‘i students the wonders of the Universe and awareness of careers in science and technology. This year’s exciting program includes classroom presentations, career panels, a teacher workshop and more!
Hawai‘i Island’s leading astronomy education and outreach program, Journey Through the Universe (Journey), is returning for its 19th year from 27 February to 3 March 2023. And after two years of virtual programming, there is high anticipation from students and teachers who will be back in person for interactive lessons and hands-on activities. This year’s program will consist of science presentations and career panels for classes from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. Journey Week — which last year was an entirely virtual experience reached over 8,000 students in Hilo-Waiākea, Honokaʻa, Waimea, Maui, Molokai and Lānaʻi schools — will offer students a fun way to engage with the wonders of our Universe, from the worlds and moons of our Solar System to the most distant galaxies.
Journey, which began as an International Gemini Observatory program and is now coordinated by NSF’s NOIRLab/Gemini, the TMT International Observatory (TMT) and the Department of Education Hilo-Waiākea Complex Area, promotes science education and inspires students to explore Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) subjects by developing literacy in science. The program endeavors to foster curiosity and wonder about our Universe, possible observatory careers, and the cutting-edge research and technology that is allowing us to understand our place in the cosmos.
“I’m thrilled to see the Journey Through the Universe program return to classrooms across Hawai‘i this year. This ambitious and celebrated program would not succeed without the help of our community partners and sponsors, including the Thirty Meter Telescope, the Department of Education, Hawai‘i Island business community, Maunakea Observatories, and NASA, among many others,” said Christopher Phillips, NOIRLab’s Engagement and Education Manager for Hawai‘i and Journey Through the Universe co-lead. “These critical collaborations, both local and from across the nation, are a demonstration of the commitment to our community and the future of science education for students in Hawai‘i and beyond.”
“TMT is honored to be a part of the core Journey Through the Universe partnership for the first time this year,” said Leinani Lozi, Hawaiʻi Community Outreach Specialist at TMT located in Hilo, Hawaiʻi, and Journey Through the Universe co-lead. “I worked behind the scenes on Journey for seven years with Janice Harvey, the now retired lead for this program, and I couldn’t be more proud of the growth and adaptability of Journey Through the Universe. After two years of being entirely virtual, we’re all very excited to be back in person supporting and connecting with our community.”
Originally developed by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE), Journey has expanded each year since its introduction in 2005. The success of Journey over the past 19 years is evidence of the support from local community partners across government, business, astronomy, and higher education, as well as the strength of our foundational partnership with the Hawaiʻi State Department of Education. Journey is a long-lasting public outreach program that has only been possible because of NOIRLab’s community partnerships, particularly with the Hawai‘i Department of Education Hilo-Waiākea Complex Area.
“The Journey Through the Universe partnership continues to be the longest and most impactful that I know of for the Hilo-Waiākea Complex of the Hawaiʻi Department of Education,” explained Esther Kanehailua, Complex Superintendent. “The dedicated science educators from the Maunakea Observatories and beyond have visited our classrooms with incredible energy and a passion for exploration on our island and beyond, inspiring our future leaders.” Kanehailua adds that students who have participated in Journey have returned as science educators in local schools, which is an indicator of the impact of the Journey program.
While individual classroom science presentations make up the majority of the Journey programming, career panels continue to be an impactful part of Journey Week. Journey Through the Universe 2023 career panels will feature professionals from local observatories and astronomy organizations from around the world. Some presenters or career panelists are even alumni of the schools they will be visiting! These panels allow students to discover the wide range of career opportunities available both at observatories and within the wider STEM fields and provide an opportunity to engage with professionals in their fields of interest.
Journey events outside of the classrooms this year include a Welcome Reception hosted by the Hawaiʻi Island Chamber of Commerce and the Japanese Chamber of Commerce & Industry of Hawaiʻi at the ʻImiloa Astronomy Center on 28 February 2023 and a NASA Lunar and Meteorite Sample Certification Workshop hosted by NASA SSERVI at the Gemini North Base Facility on 25 February 2023. In celebration of the many local community organizations, volunteers, school principals, and teachers who support Journey, the annual Journey Through the Universe welcome reception will bring the many stakeholders of this program together with its participants to share in our vision of science education for the students of Hawaiʻi. The NASA Lunar and Meteorite Sample Certification Workshop will provide an awesome opportunity for Hawaiʻi Island teachers to be introduced to the science of the study of astromaterials, learn how to bring this exciting topic into their classes, and become certified to borrow lunar samples from the historic Apollo missions that are available to lend to teachers.
NSF’s NOIRLab (National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory), the US center for ground-based optical-infrared astronomy, operates the international Gemini Observatory (a facility of NSF, NRC–Canada, ANID–Chile, MCTIC–Brazil, MINCyT–Argentina, and KASI–Republic of Korea), Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO), Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO), the Community Science and Data Center (CSDC), and Vera C. Rubin Observatory (operated in cooperation with the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory). It is managed by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) under a cooperative agreement with NSF and is headquartered in Tucson, Arizona. The astronomical community is honored to have the opportunity to conduct astronomical research on Iolkam Du’ag (Kitt Peak) in Arizona, on Maunakea in Hawai‘i, and on Cerro Tololo and Cerro Pachón in Chile. We recognize and acknowledge the very significant cultural role and reverence that these sites have to the Tohono O'odham Nation, to the Native Hawaiian community, and to the local communities in Chile, respectively.
Journey Through the Universe is organized by NSF’s NOIRLab/International Gemini Observatory and supported by the following partners (listed in alphabetical order): Bank of Hawai‘i, Basically Books, Big Island Candies, Big Island Toyota, California Institute of Technology, Caltech Submillimeter Observatory, Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope, DeLuz Chevrolet, Hawai‘i Community College, Hawai‘i Electric Light Company, Hawai‘i Island Chamber of Commerce Hawai‘i Island Economic Development Board, Hawai‘i State Department of Education, Hawai‘i Science and Technology Museum Hawai‘i Tribune-Herald, ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center, James Clerk Maxwell Telescope, East Asian Observatory, Japanese Chamber of Commerce & Industry, KTA Superstores, KWXX Radio Station/New West Broadcasting, Maunakea Astronomy Outreach Committee, Maunakea Observatories, Maunakea Support Services, Maunakea Visitor Information Station NASA Infrared Telescope Facility, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, National Center for Earth & Space Science, National Radio Astronomy Observatory National Solar Observatory, Pacific Science Center, Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems, Project Astro/Family Astro, Rotary Club of Hilo Bay, Smithsonian Submillimeter Array Subaru Telescope, TMT International Observatory, Thirty Meter Telescope–Japan, UH Hilo College of Pharmacy, UH Institute for Astronomy, United Kingdom Infrared Telescope, University of California–Los Angeles University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, University of Hawai‘i at Manoa, University of Oregon, Very Long Baseline Array, and W.M. Keck Observatory.
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NOIRLab staff John Vierra with a group of students during Journey Through the Universe 2020 in Hawai‘i.Credits: International Gemini Observatory/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/J. Pollard
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